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Alpine Elements - another one bites the icy piste

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
Alpine Elements wrote:
IMPORTANT NEWS ABOUT THE FUTURE OF ALPINE ELEMENTS
I would like to let you all know that we placed Alpine Elements into Administration this afternoon (December 8th) and have appointed Administrators. I am deeply sorry for this outcome, but it has been without question one of the hardest decisions I have had to make in 23 years of running my Company.
We have tried so hard, (for so long), to try and find a way through this, but the devastating effects of COVID with its continued travel restrictions, lockdowns and - crucially for us - the lack of UK Government support and guidance, have left us in an impossible situation.
To this day, we are yet to receive refunds from the many suppliers to whom we have paid money for your holiday: like flights, accommodation, catering and other services. Without those refunds we have not had the available cash to refund you. With President Macron’s announcement that the ski season is now unable to start, we will not be able to meet our Jan 30th deadline for refunds, set by ABTA. Like many other travel businesses, I am therefore forced into making this very difficult decision; one that my team and I have fought against for so long.
We would like to reassure you that your holiday is protected by ATOL or ABTA. Therefore, you will receive a full cash refund for all monies paid to Alpine Elements Ltd in due course. Our Administrators will write to you within 24 hours to advise you of how to make your refund claim. Whilst we will no longer be able to help you directly with these claims, my remaining team and I will continue to work with our Administrators to ensure you are handled courteously and that you get a full refund.
What happens with Alpine Elements? In accordance with the UK legal system we engaged an Insolvency Practitioner to help us try to find a buyer for Alpine Elements Ltd. We had serious interest from some very large organisations, but no substantial offers. I was then faced with the awful reality of ‘no deal’ and the discontinuation of Alpine. In short, the complete loss of 23 years of work.
We have since been working tirelessly to find investment and a buyer for the Alpine Elements brand. I can announce that very recently we succeeded in finding a backer which allows the brand to restart.

Together with our investors, I am confident that with your support and understanding, we can bring the ‘Alpine Elements’ brand and our unique and much-loved style back to you – to make our Company stronger than before.
I do understand that this process has been difficult and protracted for many of you, and I am so deeply sorry that it has come to this. I have put a lifetime of work into Alpine Elements and since starting in 1997 - with a one-chalet operation in Morzine - we have grown to become one of the largest Independent Ski Tour Operators in the UK.
It is thanks to you and thousands of other loyal customers - The Alpine Elements Family - that has made our Company great. You have all helped me create such an exciting and well-loved brand; and your devotion, friendliness and spirit has helped me turn my passion for snow sports and sailing into a company where I can share my adventure.
I know of no other way of life; and so, with a little time, I hope to bring Alpine Elements back to you, stronger than before.
James
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Heard the drums about an hour ago. But couldn't find anything official. Website etc still up.

Worryingly their ABTA and ATOL numbers given in the T&Cs are not recognised on the relevant databases.
ski holidays
 Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Can't say they'll be lamented if the numbers of people reporting dissatisfaction with them and in particular having been stiffed in the past year is anything to go by. Plus the ABTA/ATOL shabbiness of course. Talking about phoenixing already will be salt in the wounds for those who find that ABTA and ATOL might be in disavowing mood.

For that matter who invests in a brand like Alpine Elements - it might have name recognition but the internet is littered with customer dissatisfaction stories disproprotionate to their size?


Last edited by Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see? on Tue 8-12-20 19:39; edited 1 time in total
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@Dave of the Marmottes, let's hope that the majority of their customers paid by credit card. Those who didn't may be struggling to get their money back if ABTA/ATOL say "nothing to do with us"..... Sad
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Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
We’re in the throng of people waiting for a refund. Amazing how this has suddenly been announced today but they have failed to return our calls in two weeks. Coincidence? Come on...I’m struggling to have any sympathy for ‘James’ when his company have treated customers this way. Awaiting refund from the credit card company. The funny thing is, they tried to get us to pay by bank transfer as their ‘credit card system was down’. Of course I’m sure it is just a coincidence that you don’t get the same protections paying by that method. We insisted we would not book without cc protection. Amazingly, their machine woes evaporated.

The thing about going into administration is it takes days, sometimes weeks to initiate. So this whole time has just been about waiting for it to be someone else’s problem.

To begin the letter with “I would like to” and not “regrettably” or “sadly”, and then to go on to tell a large group of people you owe thousands to about your future plans for the business - READ THE ROOM. This is douchebaggery at its lowest ebb.

Will never use them again, even if they do come back as Patrick Troughton.

None of this even addresses the fake ABTA bonding claim. This is fraudulent and ABTA have indicated already that they will take action on anyone on the list of freeloaders.
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thepowmeister wrote:
None of this even addresses the fake ABTA bonding claim. This is fraudulent and ABTA have indicated already that they will take action on anyone on the list of freeloaders.


I know nothing of how Alpine Elements advertised themselves, but if they claimed to have ABTA bonding and it turns out they didn't then as you say that would appear to be fraudulent behaviour. Wrongful Trading e.g trading while insolvent is a civil offence, but Fraudulent Trading (i.e where there is a clear intent to deceive and defraud their creditors and customers) is a criminal offence, therefore much more serious than wrongful trading. Here's what this reference says:

The main difference between the two is intent. Directors who take part in fraudulent trading have a clear intent to deceive and defraud their creditors and customers.

However, the Insolvency Service must prove intent, so a thorough investigation will take place.

Directors are most likely to be charged with fraudulent trading if they have tried to maximise money coming in prior to liquidation.

The liquidator will report findings of wrongful trading first, then accuse the director of fraudulent trading if required.

The punishments (although similar to wrongful trading) are more severe. You may be:

Held personally liable for a larger proportion of the company's debts
Given a longer disqualification
Fined more for your actions
Sent to prison - this is much more likely for fraudulent trading
ski holidays
 Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
@Alastair Pink, I'm not an expert in the finer legal points you describe above but if you go here you can check the claim.:

https://www.alpineelements.co.uk/holiday-protection

I then checked the numbers here:

https://www.abta.com/abta-member-search

And here

https://siteapps.caa.co.uk/check-an-atol/

Both sites return no results. I checked a company I trust and both returned results as expected.
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 After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
chocksaway wrote:
@Alastair Pink, I'm not an expert in the finer legal points you describe above...


Neither am I (I am Not A Lawyer), but I was just repeating the words from the link I gave. Madeye-Smiley

chocksaway wrote:
.... but if you go here you can check the claim.:

https://www.alpineelements.co.uk/holiday-protection

I then checked the numbers here:

https://www.abta.com/abta-member-search

And here

https://siteapps.caa.co.uk/check-an-atol/

Both sites return no results. I checked a company I trust and both returned results as expected.


Well those links you gave would appear to constitute what I believe the lawyers describe as a prima facie case (but again IANAL) Madeye-Smiley
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Alpine Elements probably were on the ATOL bond scheme, since to organise and sell holidays including flights they would have legally been required to be. I seem to recall (although I'm not sure) they were on the list published by the CAA in October of licenses that were yet to be renewed.
Thus, those awaiting refunds from last season, will now be clear to make a claim - since ATOL only becomes relevant when the company goes under.
Anyone who was persuaded to pay by means other than a card, since Alpine Elements' ATOL reg ran out... they may have a problem. However, if there was a clear, provable attempt by the company to persuade people to do so while aware of their impending collapse, James Hardiman may also be one with a problem.
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@Alastair Pink, Got to be careful with that acronym! Shocked
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snowHeads are a friendly bunch.
I just assumed it was a new Apple product.
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 And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
@chocksaway, Laughing
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 So if you're just off somewhere snowy come back and post a snow report of your own and we'll all love you very much
So if you're just off somewhere snowy come back and post a snow report of your own and we'll all love you very much
@admin, chapeau! Madeye-Smiley

Edit: Although on reflection perhaps a hat isn't the correct item for the area in question.... Shocked


Last edited by So if you're just off somewhere snowy come back and post a snow report of your own and we'll all love you very much on Tue 8-12-20 21:24; edited 1 time in total
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 You know it makes sense.
You know it makes sense.
Sad, because people I know who went with them were happy with their provision.

They have a sister company called Ocean Elements that runs Mediterranean activity holidays, and that website still appears to be active and claim ABTA protection.
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 Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
@x7, You are correct -- Alpine appear on list one here

https://www.caa.co.uk/ATOL-protection/Trade/Maintain-and-renew-your-ATOL/Companies-that-have-not-renewed-their-ATOL/
ski holidays
 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
@x7, you are right they were on List 1,

The following is a cut and paste from the CAA pdf

September 2020 – Renewal of Air Travel Organisers’ Licences 1 List of late renewing ATOL holders who no longer hold an ATOL at 1 October 2020 1.1 This document contains a list of firms who have applied to renew their licences, but have failed to do so as at midnight 30 September 2020. In some cases the CAA has yet to reach a decision on their application, in others the CAA has decided to grant the application from the date on which the firm provides the items required to grant the renewal. Inclusion on this list does not necessarily mean that the CAA has doubts as to the firm’s financial resources. 1.2 Until the firms appearing on this list have renewed their licence, they are not permitted to advertise or accept bookings or payments unless they are acting as an agent on behalf, and with the authority, of a disclosed ATOL holder or are acting as an airline ticket agent. 2 The List

Alpine Elements Ltd 6435

I have removed the other companies for brevity. As AE were still selling holidays until today detailing that number, I guess they might be called to the Headmasters office to explain. Of course they could have been fulfilling the requirements of that last quoted para but just not updated the website.
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
@j b, I've just looked at the Ocean Elements website, their T&Cs quote the same, lapsed, ABTA and ATOL numbers.
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 Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
@albob, that's interesting, List one you referred to in the ATOL link you gave states:

1.1 This document contains a list of firms who have applied to renew their licences, but have failed to do so as at midnight 30 September 2020. In some cases the CAA has yet to reach a decision on their application, in others the CAA has decided to grant the application from the date on which the firm provides the items required to grant the renewal. Inclusion on this list does not necessarily mean that the CAA has doubts as to the firm’s financial resources.
1.2 Until the firms appearing on this list have renewed their licence, they are not permitted to advertise or accept bookings or payments unless they are acting as an agent on behalf, and with the authority, of a disclosed ATOL holder or are acting as an airline ticket agent.

So if Alpine Elements were advertising that they were an ATOL holder after 1st October 2020 or accepting new bookings or payments they were in breach of ATOL rules?
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Alastair -- presumably they would be in breach ; unless they were using another companies ATOL licence ? - Mr Hardiman has other travel companies..
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albob wrote:
Alastair -- presumably they would be in breach ; unless they were using another companies ATOL licence ? - Mr Hardiman has other travel companies..


Yes, but chocksaway's link to their website shows they were advertising quoting ATOL number 6435 which was no longer valid after 1st October?
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I think the second sentence in your quote would give them some wiggle room i.e. "we were still negotiating...."
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Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
If I apply to join NASA, and while they’re processing my job application - I sell out a load of public speaking gigs claiming I work for NASA...would that also be ok?

You’re either in, or you’re not. Fraud is fraud. There is no such defence as ‘well we were NEARLY in the scheme that offered protection to our customers’
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 After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
Why am I not surprised. The worst chalet holiday I ever had was with AE and with no attempt on their part to redress at the time or afterwards.

What would surprise me, is if any of the directors ever suffer as a consequence.

It's almost as if the need to prove 'intent' - almost impossible - was implied by the formulation of regulations in order that directors can easily escape penalty/prosecution, let alone conviction. As in so many other areas of English corporate life.

Like fraud, for example.

It doesn't need to be a conspiracy for the punters to be the only ones stiffed. Or the taxpayers.

Dare I say IANAL (c)@admin.

Yes. I do.

The Customer's experience must be very like the delivery man having left an Apple, but pushed right into the back passage.
( Edit: Apols for previous crudity. Hope OK now. Incoming call. Ooh. Must have left it on vibrate. )


Last edited by After all it is free Go on u know u want to! on Tue 8-12-20 23:56; edited 2 times in total
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I don't know the company personally, but I do think this thread is being very hard on a small operator suffering under a crisis they couldn't reasonably have anticipated or mitigated.
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Ocean Elements was possibly a trading name for AE - there is no limited company of that name, nor does it feature in the same ATOL list (earlier in the year) that features AE. Also, Mr JF Hardiman is a director of
"Elements Services London Ltd" which is a transport company as used by many tourops to reduce their vat (so effectively the transport buyer for AE Ltd) and of
"IGOSKI Ltd" which is a separate limited company (sole shareholder probably JF Hardiman!) and of
"Elements Sailing Ltd" is another limited company (but maybe dormant) renamed from Elements Holidays Ltd in December 2019.
Additionally a James Hardiman started a new company in May this year called "Venture Holidays Ltd". www.ventureholidays.co.uk Their properties look familiar and the "financial protection" page is a delight - https://ventureholidays.co.uk/financial-protection
Lastly, if anyone looks at the website for Hotel l'Hermine Blanche in Morzine (as featured on VH's website) there is a logo for "Venture Vacances"

So - the phoenix has already risen!
By the way, a slogan on Venture's website is "Explore The Alps, Skiing At It's Best" - GCSE English Language FAIL

Am I being harsh? Compared to the grief that was pointed at Ski VIP recently I think not.
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admin wrote:
I just assumed it was a new Apple product.


I see a business opportunity here Toofy Grin
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 And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
Personally, after the Eyjafjallajökull eruption in Iceland in 2010 caused havoc across the N. Atlantic and Europe, various Far Eastern Tsunamis, a variety of other natural disasters, plus the Brexit decision in 2016, I think that it's hard to put forwards "no one could have foreseen" as an excuse. It's sort of intrinsic to a travel business that the unforseen is not uncommon. The problem was that a lot of UK Alpine travel businesses had a very fragile business model, with very thin margins, and a highly-geared cashflow, that was not going to be resilient in the face of more than minor disruptions. What would be nice to hear is a bit of honesty about the situation - I actually think people would be more sympathetic and tolerant if companies said it as it was: they worked on very thin margins; had to pay out accommodation and travel up-front with clients' deposits; and the destinations in question are now mostly shut and will continue to be shut for the rest of the season. It's better they declare now than continue to trade on a false hope.
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This was the company that cured me of going on Chalet Holidays. Long time ago now but the whole holiday was an unmitigated disaster. The two chalet hosts who couldn't cook or clean, thankfully left midweek having apparently been head hunted by Neilson for an upmarket chalet. Unsurprisingly I have never been on holiday with Neilson. Smile

@Nemisis, The last accounts for Alpine Elements Ltd mentions another subsidiary Alpine Elements SARL presumably a French registered company and four other related companies under common control Ocean Elements (not a limited company), SARL Hardiman, SARL JF Hardiman and SARL Venture, presumably French registered companies.

SARL Hardiman appears to be associated with Chalet Well in Morzine.
ski holidays
 You know it makes sense.
You know it makes sense.
j b wrote:
I don't know the company personally, but I do think this thread is being very hard on a small operator suffering under a crisis they couldn't reasonably have anticipated or mitigated.
The devil is in the detail with these things. (And anyway, this 'small operator' boasts of being the largest independent operator in the UK)
Alpine Elements do already have a bit of a rep for cutting corners and sailing close to the wind and so this announcement of theirs seems quite in character.
The thing is, when a company goes under like this, people get burned: that's the whole point of the process, to admit defeat at trying to keep it all balanced and bail on commitments to other companies and individuals. People lose out!
Now, to use the communication announcing this 'unfortunate circumstance' which in effect, is giving notice to a load of people that they just got burned - to use this same communication to boast about the advanced state of his plans to phoenix the company back into a trading state only without the 'dead weight' of the people they owe money to... well that just looks rather cavalier, does it not?
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 Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
Quote:

well that just looks rather cavalier, does it not?


Rules are rigged against SMEs. Get a lobby group together ... with plenty of cash n brown envelopes.
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 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
j b wrote:
... I do think this thread is being very hard on a small operator suffering under a crisis they couldn't reasonably have anticipated or mitigated.
Most small companies have dealt with these very same problems without resort to criminality.

I'm sure even the director of this outfit would not want his victims to take the law into their own hands, which is where your logic is going.

It looks like the company, now defunct so presumably unable to credibly threaten me with legal action, was trading illegally. It looks like
they were taking payment without any reasonable probability of being able to fulfil those contracts, and claiming bonds they didn't
apparently have is fairly obviously fraudulent.

I'm actually a bit surprised that Visa didn't pull the plug on them, but perhaps their anti-fraud systems don't work that way.
Does anyone know how that works?
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
From Travelmole, a travel industry news bulletin just now:
"Owner James Hardiman has bought back the business "
https://www.travelmole.com/news_feature.php?c=setreg&region=2&m_id=s~T_~AvT_m&w_id=38360&news_id=2045361
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 Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
chocksaway wrote:
@Alastair Pink, Got to be careful with that acronym! Shocked


Laughing Laughing Laughing Laughing Laughing Laughing Laughing
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So, AE can “place” itself in administration, owing 2500 customers money from LAST season, whilst still taking money from others for the coming season, at the same time as - apparently - fraudulently claiming to hold ATOL and/or ABTA licences, and STILL be able to purchase “the brand, goodwill and trademark” in order to start up again?
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philwig wrote:
j b wrote:
... I do think this thread is being very hard on a small operator suffering under a crisis they couldn't reasonably have anticipated or mitigated.
Most small companies have dealt with these very same problems without resort to criminality.

I'm sure even the director of this outfit would not want his victims to take the law into their own hands, which is where your logic is going.

It looks like the company, now defunct so presumably unable to credibly threaten me with legal action, was trading illegally. It looks like
they were taking payment without any reasonable probability of being able to fulfil those contracts, and claiming bonds they didn't
apparently have is fairly obviously fraudulent.

I'm actually a bit surprised that Visa didn't pull the plug on them, but perhaps their anti-fraud systems don't work that way.
Does anyone know how that works?


If you mean Visa the card scheme then they dont have a contract with the merchants. The merchant (AE in this case) has a contract with the merchant service provider (Worldpay, First data, Payzone, etc). Within that contract the merchant has to abide by the rules of the various card schemes (Visa, Amex, Mastercard etc). Ironically, these rules state that a credit card payment is NOT a guaranteed payment and they have the unilateral and autonomous right to basically do what they want. Mastercard's rules alone are 800 pages long of utter jargon. Sorry going off on a tangent.

I would expect that the AE may have a problem securing further bonding with ABTA/ATOL and securing a new merchant facility. However, they may have another company already set up in the wings with these facilities to trade in place and simply move across the phoenix to them. I believe that there may be a dual trading law on this though? Not sure.
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Montana wrote:
So, AE can “place” itself in administration, owing 2500 customers money from LAST season, whilst still taking money from others for the coming season, at the same time as - apparently - fraudulently claiming to hold ATOL and/or ABTA licences, and STILL be able to purchase “the brand, goodwill and trademark” in order to start up again?


Well yes but no as with limited companies there are important differences between "the company" "the business" and "the directors". From my knowledge this situation is worlds apart from the potential phoenixing of VIP, the latter of which I hope occurs. As for the former, no thanks.
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 Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
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Nemisis wrote:
From Travelmole, a travel industry news bulletin just now:
"Owner James Hardiman has bought back the business "
https://www.travelmole.com/news_feature.php?c=setreg&region=2&m_id=s~T_~AvT_m&w_id=38360&news_id=2045361


I think that just confirm that the guy is a prize C$$t and that no-one should spend anything with him again. Problem is that these sleazeballs know that the holiday industry has an almost limitless number of punters in search of a "deal" and will have no problem getting a customer base again. Before he stiffs them again and repeats the same trick.
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 After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
Nemisis wrote:
From Travelmole, a travel industry news bulletin just now:
"Owner James Hardiman has bought back the business "
https://www.travelmole.com/news_feature.php?c=setreg&region=2&m_id=s~T_~AvT_m&w_id=38360&news_id=2045361


Came through at the 11th hour my arse!
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you could see this coming a mile off really

Taking in as much money as possible

crashing the company

let someone else take the hit

press restart

given the statement there is no way this happened overnight and he already had the plan to restart again

didn't even consider using the new investment to sort out the mess he's leaving behind

this man is a charletan
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Looks like snowheads did most of the journalism for planetski Very Happy

https://planetski.eu/2020/12/09/alpine-elements-collapses-but-plans-relaunch/
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